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Higley v. Higley - 95-0965 ( La. App. 4 Cir 06/29/95), 658 So. 2d 42

Rule:

Minimum requirements inherent in the concept of fair play and substantial justice may defeat an inference of reasonableness of jurisdiction even if a defendant has purposefully engaged in forum activities reflected by sufficient minimum contacts. The relationship between a nonresident and the state must be such that it would be reasonable to require the nonresident to defend the suit in that state. The burden on the nonresident defendant is a primary concern; but in appropriate cases, it will be considered in light of other relevant factors such as the state's interest in adjudicating the dispute; the plaintiff's interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief when that interest is not adequately protected by his power to choose the forum; the interstate judicial system's interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies; and the shared interest of the states in furthering fundamental substantive social policies. These considerations sometimes serve to establish the reasonableness of jurisdiction upon a lesser showing of minimum contacts than would otherwise be required.

Facts:

Plaintiff creditor, a non-resident, averred that defendant debtor (the plaintiff's father) was indebted to her because of personal loans that had not been repaid. She filed a petition for a writ of non-resident attachment that sought to attach money the debtor's former employer owed to him. Garnishment interrogatories resulted in a consent judgment wherein the former employer deposited the sum it owed to the debtor into the registry of the court. The trial court denied both the debtor's exception of lack of personal jurisdiction to the creditor's petition and his motion to dissolve the efendantdattachment. 

The basis for the nonresident attachment is  La. C.C.P. art. 3541 which provides that a writ of attachment may be obtained when the defendant is a nonresident who has no appointed agent for service of process. Plaintiff daughter claims and the trial court apparently found that the presence of property belonging to the non-resident defendant father in the state gives a court personal jurisdiction over the defendant. However, constitutional requirements of due process also mandate that the defendant have "minimum contacts" with the forum in a quasi in rem proceeding to the same extent as is required for assertion of personal jurisdiction. Shaffer v. Heitner, 433 U.S. 186, 97 S. Ct. 2569, 53 L. Ed. 2d 683 (1977).

Issue:

Did the minimum contacts outweigh the evidence of substantial unfairness or injustice to defendant debtor father in requiring him to defend the action in Louisiana?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

On appeal, the court reversed. Although the debtor had the required minimum contacts with Louisiana at the time the quasi in rem action commenced, those minimum contacts did not outweigh the evidence of substantial unfairness or injustice to the debtor in requiring him to defend the action in Louisiana. Louisiana had no particular interest in the litigation, which was simply a suit for repayment of a loan involving two out-of-state residents. The creditor did not allege that she could not bring suit against the debtor in Florida, and the debtor's asset in Louisiana was not even sufficient to pay the alleged debt in full.

Minimum requirements inherent in the concept of fair play and substantial justice may defeat the inference of reasonableness of jurisdiction even if the defendant has purposefully engaged in forum activities reflected by sufficient minimum contacts. Asahi Metal Ind. v. Super Ct. of Cal. Solano Cty., 480 U.S. 102, 107 S. Ct. 1026, 94 L. Ed. 2d 92 (1987)The relationship between the nonresident and the state must be such that it would be reasonable to require the nonresident to defend the suit in that state. International Shoe Co. v. Washington , 326 U.S. 310, 66 S. Ct. 154, 90 L. Ed. 95 (1945). The burden on the nonresident defendant is a primary concern; but in appropriate cases, it will be considered in light of other relevant factors such as the state's interest in adjudicating the dispute; the plaintiff's interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief when that interest is not adequately protected by his power to choose the forum; the interstate judicial system's interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies; and the shared interest of the states in furthering fundamental substantive social policies. World-Wide Volkswagen v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 100 S. Ct. 559, 62 L. Ed. 2d 490 (1980)de Reyes v. Marine Consulting, 586 So. 2d 103 (La. 1991)These considerations sometimes serve to establish the reasonableness of jurisdiction upon a lesser showing of minimum contacts than would otherwise be required. Burger King Corp., 471 U.S. 462, 85 L. Ed. 2d 528, 105 S. Ct. 2174.

Louisiana has no particular interest in this litigation which is simply a suit for repayment of a loan involving two out-of-state residents. The property attached has no relation to the cause of action asserted by the plaintiff. The plaintiff has not made any allegations that she is unable to bring suit against the defendant in Florida.

The balancing test as explained in de Reyes, favors granting the exception of lack of personal jurisdiction. Louisiana has no interest in the litigation. The plaintiff's only apparent interest is that the defendant had an asset in Louisiana; moreover, the asset is not even sufficient to pay the alleged debt in full. While defendant father clearly had contacts with Louisiana, those contacts were minimal at the time this litigation was instituted. Therefore, the trial court judgment is reversed and the writ of attachment is ordered dissolved.

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